Train easy for a 10K PB!

As a coach and a person who competes in triathlons and other endurance events, I have been interested in the work by Dr Phil Maffertone (2010) and Dr Stephen Seiler (2010, 2019) and a book written by Mark Sisson and Brad Kearns (2016). Very loosely, they all believe that the majority of your training should be completed in the easy, aerobic zone but the occasional hard session, which produce the performance gains, need to be really hard.

The Covid-19 pandemic spread across the world at the beginning of the year and I consciously made the decision to transfer my competition entries to 2021, as I believed it was unlikely mass participation events would happen in any great number during this year.

This got me thinking! I could use this time in lockdown to train consistently, making sure I stayed in my aerobic zone, using heart rate as an indicator. By training in this easy zone I was able to build a strong endurance base (engine) without the risk of injury and ‘burn-out’ that is associated with training too often in the anaerobic zone. After 4 months I decided to run 10K at race pace and repeat the same course 10 days later. To my amazement, having done only easy aerobic workouts, I ran my 1st 10K in a time that I would not have been ashamed of 20 years ago and the second 10K, a couple of days before my 57th birthday,  I knocked a further 5 mins off my time bringing me close to my all-time 10K PB. Furthermore, my recovery after the two time trials, was quick with little soreness or stiffness.

The take-home message here is to train easy most of the time, but the hard sessions need to be HARD, and don’t get sucked into the ‘black hole’ that most amateur athletes find themselves training in; the anaerobic threshold or even maximum intensity heart rate zones. Training in these zones for long periods of time will eventually lead to injury, illness and ‘burn-out’.

References

Maffetone, P. (2010) The big book of endurance training and racing. New York: Skyhorse Publishing.

Seiler, S. (2010) ‘What is best practice for training intensity and endurance distribution in endurance athletes?’ International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 5, pp.276-291.

Seiler,S. (2019) How ‘normal people’ can train like the worlds best endurance athletes. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/stephen_seiler_how_normal_people_can_train_like_the_worlds_best_edurance_athletes?utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare

Sissons, M and Kearns, B. (2016) Primal Endurance. Oxnard, CA: Primal Blueprint Publishing.

“The Monthly Cycle”

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It was highlighted at the @trainingpeaks Endurance Summit in Manchester, UK in Nov 2018 that as male coaches coaching female athletes we would benefit from having a better understanding of the ‘monthly cycle’ and through conversation and feedback adjust the training of these athletes to suit. Some great podcasts recently on the subject @oxygenaddicttriathlon podcast No 193 “Blood, Sweat and Gears” and No 218 “Menopause Special”. Also @ctgprojecthq Way of Champions podcast No 102 “Is there a difference between coaching Girls and Coaching Boys”. My better understanding has certainly benefited my athletes, including the juniors I coach.

Strength and Conditioning

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A topic close to my heart! For years I have been promoting S&C to athletes I work with but never really incorporated  it into my own training.

This changed a couple of years ago when I was fed up picking up niggling injuries which hampered my training, preventing consistency, so important in achieving results. I began to include 2 x 1 hour S&C sessions in my weekly training programme and the benefits were quick to show. I began to feel stronger and my form did not deteriorate as I became tired towards the end of a session due to muscle fatigue. and more importantly I stayed injury free.

I include S&C sessions in all my athletes’ training programmes, throughout the year, to help them get stronger, prevent injury thereby allowing consistent blocks of training to be completed. I hear many amateur athletes say they are unable to fit strength sessions to their already busy schedule but I would advocate that strength sessions should be prioritised. A structured strength programme can improve areas of weakness which are prone to injury  and make the muscle group stronger. 

Training Peaks University and Endurance Summit – Manchester, UK – November 2018

Joe Friel at the Training Peaks University
Joe Friel at the Training Peaks University

An amazing 4 days spent in Manchester sharing knowledge and learning loads from the likes of legendary endurance coach Joe Friel and 4 x World Ironman Champion Chrissie Wellington. 47 coaches attended the University and 170 people from 30 countries, the Endurance Summit. Talks about all aspects of endurance sport were given by speakers who were all experts in their field.

Chrissie Wellington opening the Endurance Summit
Chrissie Wellington opening the Endurance Summit